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Rare Shipment of U.S. Oil Heads to South Africa

A shipment of U.S. oil is headed to South Africa for the first time in two years and destined for a Glencore-owned refinery in Cape Town that has restarted operations after an explosion shuttered it in 2020, according to ship tracking data and a source. 

U.S. oil exports this year hit a record 4.5 million barrels per day as competitive pricing for U.S. grades and China’s reopening after COVID-19 have fueled global demand for oil. 

Tanker Sonangol Porto Amboim, carrying light sweet oil, left Corpus Christi, Texas, on May 16 for Saldanha Bay on the west coast of South Africa, according to ship tracking information from Refinitiv Eikon and energy data provider Kpler. 

South Africa gets most of its oil from West and Central Africa as well as Saudi Arabia, according to Kpler data. But competitive pricing for U.S. crude and changes to oil flows since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have opened new markets. The last shipment of U.S. oil went to South Africa in May 2021, U.S. customs data showed.

The 850,000 barrel-cargo of West Texas Light was purchased by Swiss-commodities trader Glencore GLEN.L, a person familiar with the matter said. 

Glencore’s majority-owned Astron Energy restarted production at its 100,000 barrel per day Cape Town refinery nearly three years after a deadly explosion shuttered operations and killed two workers.

Glencore declined to comment on the shipment. Astron confirmed that the refinery restarted as part of a phased process and was producing at its planned capacity.

Astron, which has the second-largest retail fuel network in southern Africa, receives its oil from tankers discharging in Saldanha Bay and transports the oil to the Cape Town refinery via pipeline, according to the refiner’s website.